TA & Stop relying on OTAs

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07/29/2011

First a bit of historical perspective:

So a long time ago,(5 years) our 9 room place managed to reach the top of TA, with over 5000 hotels on there.  Business was good and we were typically nearly always up to capacity with a small dip in the winter months. Then many new places began popping up.  Nothing truly competing in the same space, but suddenly there were 6000 hotels for our city on TA and that combined with the odd crappy review from a bitter guest put us further down the pile. I finally gave in and hooked up ResKey with myAllocator and jumped in with agoda and booking.com

so this situation has remained the same for several years now.  But I still feel that OTAs don't truly show our space the way guests need to see it, both for the purpose of the right person finding the perfect place for them and also for just generally not showing the right details through. I'd love to just cut down the OTAs share of our sales but I'm not sure where to begin.  I'm fairly certain that if I removed them completely I'd see a small drop in sales,  but people might start using that TA business link more again.  However I'm also worried that people making TA searches just won't find us listed if we have no partnered OTAs.  I could keep just the tripconnect up, and compete exclusively against myself there.  

So many questions.  The other side of this is the optimization to capture more market directly from  our website.  I've spent some time last month adding in SSL and trying to just clean things up, but there are probably a few bags of tricks for either directly fixing things or secondary measures like SEO.  

Id love to get all your input!

 

thanks- 

j

PhineasSwann's picture
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09/25/2012

Got my email from TA offering my my annual flag for our Certificate of Excellence. Notice now instead of giving them away, I have to pay $10.

It's worth it, I guess. We have eight flags that fly out in front of our building, and I love putting it up on the end facing our next-door competitor. 

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Innkeeper & Owner, Phineas Swann Bed & Breakfast Inn

 

JimBoone's picture
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PhineasSwann wrote:

I have to pay $10.

Noticed that, didn't order yet, but I suppose it pays for postage and handling so maybe not unreasonable

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Jim & Maxine

 

Breakfast Diva's picture
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05/26/2009

I've stayed away from OTAs except for Air (not a lot of action there). I won't pay their commissions or let them bid on my b&b's name to take my own guests away from me. 

Actually, many years ago when b&b.com first had their bookings online with Ex, I tried it. Know what I got? The first month I got 2 reservations from my own past guests! I stopped them right then and there.

I use Tripconnect & google adwords express. Works well for us. The biggest thing is to keep your own organic listing up high for search engines. Work on your website to make it search engine friendly. 

 

Lee2014's picture
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12/11/2014

   At our Inn we are not on OTAs except Air.  We took the place from the old way of things to modern with online booking, accepts credit cards and we doubled our score. (Thanks to everyone's advice here!)  It is in a tourist destination.  We are listed at visitor centers, info centers, online places, etc.  The OTAs want you to think you can't live without them but its just brain washing.  Our name started with a W so we are at the bottom of the pile of over 100 B&Bs, 25 hotels, and then there are motels, apartment retails, vacation cottages, hostels, condos, campgrounds, (name it and that place has it) but we get enough bookings.  Just saying, you can leave OTAs behind.  Maybe start by seeing who you get the most bookings from and get off the ones that don't send so many.  Every month or year, leave another one and see how it works...

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07/29/2011

Hm I wish I could do this!

But dropping the OTAs means essentially being unlisted from TripAdvisor, unless users somehow figure out how to clear their dates and refresh. Without any OTA connections, if they add in a date, it will clear us away. 

I'd not care about that as we are very popular, yet we are located in a city of 6000+ hotels, and at least another 20000 Airbnbs.  I need every method to stand out!

Momma Smurf's picture
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joels wrote:

Hm I wish I could do this!

But dropping the OTAs means essentially being unlisted from TripAdvisor, unless users somehow figure out how to clear their dates and refresh. Without any OTA connections, if they add in a date, it will clear us away. 

Well, actually 'tis quite easy to accomplish.  I had reported issues with Trip Con nect last week and after actually being in touch with REAL TA support people for the past few days, it's back up today.  We have no OTAs, use TC PPC and are always usually in the top 1 or 2 in search results out of 23!  Many BBs use this as their strategy.  Easy to set up too.

Generic's picture
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02/24/2011

One of the nice things about using Reskey and MyAllocator is that you can still micromanage the two separately. And you can put in hidden discounts on one that don't appear on the other. For example, a discount on 3 days that only appears if you are booking 3 days midweek. Or you can put a 3 day minimum on MyAllocator when you have a 2 day minimum, so the OTAs don't appear when you do TripConnect. Or you only have higher priced rooms appear and therefore they look more expensive.

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07/29/2011

I see. I did a few things like this last year and I remember many days of pain of trying to sort out certain OTAs not syncing the pricing correctly.  Maybe remind me how I can expect it to work. 

ResKey can't sync the pricing to myAllocator right? I'm fairly certain the OTAs get their pricing data from myAllocator alone.

 

As for general OTA visibility I suppose I'm most in need of help for last minute bookings, where I'd want our availability spread far and wide. And therefore I'd want the cheaper rooms opened up on more OTAs at that point. Is that not a fairly standard idea? Or am I looking at it wrong.

Generic's picture
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02/24/2011

You can sync from ResKey to MyA but it will overwrite what is there.

Go to Settings, External Connections, Room/Unit Settings, Retrieve Rooms/Units, Send Rates (and choose if you want it to send minimum stays as well). 

In MyA go to Availability. These are the display options that I use...

 

The MinLOS is minimum Length of Stay. So, the closed means that no OTA can book it (even if you have a rate), but check because there are a few services that ignore it. (In which case, setting the rate wildly high usually fixes that. But do you send the Closed for Arrival and Closed for Departure... so you can set it so that no one who checks in can leave on a certain day or arrive on a certain day. Say for example, you set Friday as no arrivals, they can book if they arrive before Friday (ie Thursday). 

You also need to check with X and B if you are set up for maximum limit or minimum limit. For example, if any day has a 3 day minimum, if you have a 2 day minimum on one day, the MINIMUM LIMIT would mean they follow the 2 rule. If you have it set for MAXIMUM limit, any day set for 3 during that period would require them to book for 3 days.

You need the display to show RATE so you can modify it, if you need to. Up or down. And availability is number of rooms in that category. You are most likely going to edit MinLOS, Closed Arrival, Closed Departure. I have a 3 day hole, they get to fill it, but they can't sell 2 of the 3... just 3.

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07/29/2011

Very interesting!  I'll use some of that. I think I have the OTAs more or less functionally configured OK for our purposes now.

The main issue is dragging guests away from them as much as possible. I'm trying to push a bit with our TA business account using notices and special, and I'll push more on Facebook. 

Seems a lot of these suggestions are for cranking up the limitations on booking through OTAs, but I'm still trying to maintain full visibility if possible, but while simultaneously getting people to go directly to our site.

Highlands John's picture
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joels wrote:

 and I'll push more on Facebook. 

Something I didn't know that I learnt at a recent seminar which may be of use to you all. Facebook doesn't let google in, so nothing you post will appear on googles indexes nor will it improve your seo ranking. So try to post things which link to your webs site rather than stand alone facebook post.

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07/29/2011

Hmm that's a really good point.  My usual way of working with Facebook promotions is to just link URL's from Facebook, promote those, and then have all the detail put in the actual URL - not Facebook.  I guess that achieves what you mention here, but didn't know that google doesn't index any of this to begin with

Generic's picture
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02/24/2011

You don't have to tell us exactly who you are, just an idea of where you are, what you are trying to do, etc. About you, and property without disclosing the property or specific location. You can still edit your post to make it more "general".

Momma Smurf's picture
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Unfortunately Trip Con nect may be on the way to being phased out.  Will not use OTAs so have been using TC for several years and has worked great.... until last week, my availability was no longer showing up on certain browsers.  OK on Kindle and IE, but not Chrome or Firefox.  OK on DH's Chrome, but not Edge, etc.  I started searching around and discovered it was happening to others, after trying to get an answer from someone on TA, a Scottish Innkeeper shared this response: 

Following ongoing issues with my prices not feeding through I got the following response from TripA:

This might change in the future, but, currently, TripAd visor is hiding the TripCon nect CPC button one in two times. It means that even if you have availability for certain dates, it does not mean that the button will show on all platforms and all domains at all time.

I certainly understand that it might be not ideal but this is how the product is currently working.

Another innkeeper in NOLA reports that this "testing" will continue thorough August 7th.

TC was invented before TA Instant Booking,  many of us think this is the first stage to pressure us all to switch.

 

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07/29/2011

Oh sorry ! 

I think I was confused, when I said tripconnect, I meant TA instant bookings. Yes they are 100% going to move towards that, why not?? They can potentially knock out a lot of competition.  I've stopped with the tripconnect CPC ourselves now. Hard to justify and too many bizarre conflicts all going on on the same page already. Also how many lines of revenue does TA need to have from the same business?? Ridiculous.

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07/29/2011

Hey John,

 

Yes exactly ! This is why we first ever considered hooking into any OTAs in the first place. Suddenly unless we showed availability, we no longer existed in TA, even with a paid crappy business account. 

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07/29/2011

Fair  enough!  I'm paranoid, but in reality anyone connecting the online dots can figure this out already. 

I'm Joel and I run a slightly up-market B&B in China. 

Also been a long-time lurker and occasional user on this forum, which is where I happily discovered ReservationKey and have pushed it upon countless others - along with probably a few other tidbits of great advice/info. 

 

As for your comments about learning how to use it; that's a good point. I suppose the issue foremost is about putting our own site and booking engine far enough ahead of it's own competition that guests end up choosing to book direct. This is what I'd rather start with, as simply pulling back on my OTA visibility as JimBoone touched upon can potentially negatively affect us through less visibility. And I'm fairly certain that less visibility at this point, with 6000+ hotels in our region, should make a dent in our occupancy. 

I am considering how I should figure out how to use it better with regards to rapidly adjusting prices for encouraging last minute bookings. I'm not yet sure where the best place is to do that, whether direct with each individual OTA or from the myAllocator availability page. I just so rarely think about this stuff that it's already a bit beyond me.  I also hesitate to give others access to such details, since a minor screw-up in that database goes deep, and we have many staff with access. Perhaps I should do a review of myAllocator pricing management for channels..

JimBoone, I haven't found tripconnect to change a hell of a lot for us. It does work, and it's quite simple when it gets going. I really am least familiar with it as a platform. However it's by far the most modern form of OTA to deal with. No bullPotty Mouth (auto filter), no contracts no endless phone calls and support needed. It simply works. Booking.com and Agoda take more work to get going, however once things are running and once you understand how myAllocator works (and assuming you remember all that---unlike me, at this moment!), things are relatively smooth.  If I was doing this all myself, from the set up, to the room management, to the channel management/support I'd probably keep things simple. But our Frontdesk is good about handling much of it, so all I have to do is make sure it is all functioning correctly, and once myAllocator is functioning on a channel, why not add another!?  To that end, I do vastly prefer the style of payments systems that booking.com does; ie. credit card number taken for security, money entirely handled by us with the guests independently.  Commissions are tabulated monthly for setting up their payment. Tripconnect is a good alternative, since they don't touch the money part, they just bill your credit card for the confirmed commissions. Quite clean and simple.

That all being said -- I'd like to still be getting out of all that, rather than deeper, and surely not deeper in bed with TA!

If they brought things down to 5-10% commissions I'd consider dropping all the others in a heartbeat. 

 

j

 

Generic's picture
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02/24/2011

You need to learn how to use them, instead of them using you. For example, I use them to fill holes, sometimes 1 night, sometimes 3 nights, when I sell 2 nights generally. Sometimes they don't get weekends. Sometimes only specific rooms when I can sell the others.

BTW... an intro would be nice.

JimBoone's picture
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12/18/2014

Morning Joels, I don't have the answers, but share the same questions. We are also a small 8 room property and likewise a few years ago managed to stay near the top of the TA list. I started using the TA business listing thinking that it may be a service to our guests to be able to find us easily.

When more recently TA changed their rating system to include the volume of recent reviews we fell down the list as with only 8 rooms competing with properties having 80-100 rooms there is no way I can match the volume. Now our rating, number of eyes is still the same, but we fall down the list below those with fewer eyes due to the volume from larger properties.

We have not as yet tried joining the OTSs, still wondering if the extra cost and hassle would truly be a benefit. I sort of understand the game of placing only certain rooms or days, but then if they show no rooms available is that a negative? Add in that my other half does not like computers and I have ot made that jump at this time.

Wouldn't mind learning more about Trip Connect, do you see it as a useful benefit?

Highlands John's picture
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04/16/2010

Same circumstance here, we're an OTA free zone (except Air). I use Freetobook because it's a easy way to propagate my availability through to several other sites, including visitsc otland. 

We're also near the top on TA, my main gripe with them is if you don't have an OTA link to them my page keeps saying they don't have any availability from partners so they keep trying to get viewers to my competition that does have availability.

I joined Trip Conn ect two months ago to rectify this, so far it's cost me £13 in clicks, but during this time we're pretty booked up so I wouldn't show up on TA date searches.  It will be interesting to see what happens once we're into a quieter time of year.

 

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